Dilli has been through the hands of many rulers and they say, Mughals are the creator of this COLOSSEUM. Like a newly wedded bride, Dilli had been decorated by the hands and hearts of the Mughal Emperors and others alike. Be it Eid or even any Hindu festival, emperors like 'Akbar The Great' had always accepted and celebrated them with equal aplomb. The mighty emperors are all gone and their empires are in ruin now but still the charm of those merry making festive colours are as fresh as the first mist of the season. That’s what life is! Nothing remains but the memories associated with it.
As a Delhite Bong, this seems to be a déjà vu. Durga Pujo for me is like 'The Nectar of the Gods'. Like a skylark I patiently wait for the essence of 'Kaash flower' buds to bloom, the hermes of autumn. Just a soul is needed to hear the melancholy of the celebration and to view the riot of colour which Dilli is holding tight in every nook and corner.
I frequently miss the beats of DHAK and the 'Nilanjana' of a maiden here. But, far behind, what we really pass over are those who are the actual impressionist of all this essence, the clay idol makers, a small community fighting for their existence. I've made a little effort to present them with, if not the lime light then at least its shadow. I visit them every weekend and see the idols of 'Maa Durga' slowly coming to life. A visit to the backyard of C.R. Park, Kali Bari, New Delhi, this weekend, has finally made me ask some heart touching, self-rendering questions, intending to feel the depth of their hearts, as deep as possible, their challenges and their struggles.
The idol of Durga has already taken shape in the backyard but is yet to take colour.. now is the time to ask what then is this Durga - the central figure of the Bengali heritage? After giving it considerable thought I came to the conclusion that Bengalis are schizophrenic and simultaneously exist in parallel realities.
This work is dedicated to all the Idol makers who are in the dark side, far away from recognition. It might be God's blessing that motivates them to keep doing their job with undiminished pride.
Lead Idol Maker
"বউ-বাচ্চা ছেড়ে তীন মাস ... কাজ সারা হলে পরে ঘরে যাবো, পুজো দেখবো একসাথে."
I have completed almost 25 Durga idols here this year. Delhi is a better place of earning as compare to Kolkata. People out there know how to give value to our creativity, but earning is less and we can’t work with empty stomachs. I have family there and I miss them every moment especially when I sit for a meal.
Work is more of fun than earning but yes if you are not professional you can’t survive in this field. We work from dusk to dawn and sometimes even forget to eat. I hope blessings of Her is always with us till our last breath.
“দিল্লী স্বপ্নের সহর বুঝলেন! ভালো লাগা না লাগা দিয়ে আছি, কেটে যাচ্ছে.”
I came to Delhi when I was young but my heart is in the narrow streets of Hoogly, Kolkata, my home town. The majestic city and its eternal eminence still haunt me. I came to Delhi for a better earning... far away from my family but life is not easy. And the growing inflation wrings us dry. Hope our Govt. will do something for us in the future. I like the people here but welcoming people are very few. I have to earn a living for my family and that is why I am fighting my way out here and competing with other Idol makers.
"রান্না ব্যাপার টা একটা শিল্পো, জানেন কী না? তবে যা দাম সবকিছু’র! ভালো কিছু বানাতেই পারি না."
It’s quite tough to impress people with your cooking skills and you never expect your fellow workers to work in empty stomachs. My work has taken me to various places like Dewas, Kanpur, Bhopal, and now Delhi. In other cities people don't want to pay me for my work but Delhi seems far better. My family is in Nadiya. Both of my sons got married and are settled. So now I earn for my own. I love to work here and people here appreciate our work.
"মশাই প্রতি বছরই মূর্তি বাণাই কিন্তু টাকা তেমন করে জমাতে পারছি না."
Eons back along with my father I came to this city. Like many other migrants our purpose was also the same, to earn a better living. I belong to North-24 Paragana and now Kolkata is my second home in terms of earnings. Delhi is a dreamland. It is here I have learnt how to deal with the customers. I manage everything from the raw stuff to the delivery of the final products. And I take great care in doing it. We get orders from abroad too.
It’s very difficult to save our hard earned money due to high cost of living in Delhi. But I will keep fighting with the same zeal for a better life.
"শুধু মা’র চোখ বানানো টাই বড় কথা না. খড়-মাটি দিয়ে গড়ে তোলা টাই আসল."
I came to this city, years back, with a new hope. Dilli's gallant architectures have always inspired me. I've been blown away by the city's breathtaking world of skyscrapers and its architectures, unlike the small huts and farmhouses in my village. Just like the demands of my work, I believe everything needs a pure and a strong base. Without it we can’t fulfill any goal be it idol making or anything else. My job is to give the best structures to the Idols and I do my job in the best possible manner. It needs strength, passion, a perfect knot, and years of heartfelt experience. I need to be strong enough not only for my better future but for the betterment of my next generation also.
“ সহর তা বদলে গেছে পুরোপুরি, তবে আমার স্বপ্ন টা কিন্তু একই রয়ে গেছে .”
I came here when I was a teenager and have seen it rising in front of my own eyes. O! How much it has changed minute by minute! And the people- they are becoming more extroverts now a days.
I have learnt this art of idol making from my uncle at Gorukhpur. And now after working extensively over the past many years I have at last developed my own style of idol making. And this infusing of life into mere idols is no ordinary task. It requires a lot of hard work, fervour, extensive accuracy along with the combination of knowledge, art, skills and years and years of experience. But I love this challenge and that makes the work enjoyable to me.
However the earning is very limited and hence this one particular doubt always haunts me- whether to pass on this art to the next generation or not. But then with all my heart I will try to teach them whatever I have learned.
And hence the sojourn continues...
P.S: This is a joint effort by an artistically inclined group of friends who came together with their sheer love for art, photography, literature, cinema, music, and fooling around. Who immediately after work believes in roaming around, eating, clicking, reading, more eating, writing, and fighting with each other.
Concept, Photography, and Photo Editing:
Special Thanks to: Idol Makers of C.R Park Kali Temple, New Delhi
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And hence the sojourn continues...